Ten years ago, a red-hot Tina Brown left Vanity Fair to become the editor of The New Yorker .
One decade and one failed magazine later , Vanity Fair wants Ms. Brown
Representatives for Ms. Brown and Vanity Fair told Off the Record
that Ms. Brown has been asked to write a column for the same publicationshe
reinvigorated during the 1980’s and tried to challenge with Talk in the
late 1990’s. A spokesperson for Vanity Fair said Ms. Brown’s successor
at the magazine, Graydon Carter, had approached Ms. Brown in February through
Reinaldo Herrera, a Vanity Fair contributing editor and the husband of
designer Carolina Herrera.
She said she’s still figuring out plans,” the spokesperson said, “and will
let us know.”
Neither Ms. Brown nor Mr. Carter was available for comment. But the Vanity
Fair spokesperson said the column
would most probably be in the same vein as “Tina Brown’s Diary,” a monthly
series Ms. Brown penned in her last months as editor in chief at Talk .
Writing with a light, occasionally devilish touch, Ms. Brown used the “Diary”
to muse on subjects like Sept. 11, but also to settle scores-notably taking on Tina
and Harry Come to America: Tina Brown, Harry Evans, and the Uses of Power ,
the tell-all biography of her and husband Harry Evans, written by Vanity
Fair contributing editor Judy Bachrach. “The first half of the book is all
about my breasts,” Ms. Brown wrote, referring to Ms. Bachrach’s book as “Bio
Following Talk ‘s demise in January, Ms. Brown’s diaries-which she
says she’s kept since she was 12-became the focus of outside speculation, with
some suggesting they’d be the basis for a lucrative book deal. However, Ms.
Brown dismissed that notion, telling The Observer at the time: “I think
my diary will be something [that,] when I’m 75, when the bailiffs are taking my
furniture out, I’ll cash in then.”
Ms. Brown’s return to Vanity Fair as a columnist would be
strange-akin to David Caruso coming back to NYPD Blue as a desk
sergeant. After all, Vanity Fair might have died in 1984 had it not been
for Ms. Brown, the Tatler editor who took over the magazine at the
behest of Condé Nast’s Si Newhouse and gave it its unique
celebrity-and-society-driven Weltanschauung . Ms. Brown became the first
of a new generation of celebrity editors.
Rejoining Vanity Fair , Ms. Brown would rekindle a relationship with
Condé Nast that ended when she left The New Yorker to start Talk
with Hearst and Miramax in 1998.
“If she was going to write a column in America,” the Vanity Fair
spokesperson said in explaining the overture, ” Vanity Fair is a logical
place to do it.
And when asked if the magazine felt any hesitancy about inviting Ms. Brown
back to the fold, the Vanity Fair spokesperson said, “Not at all. It
seemed like a natural and logical thing to do.”
However, Vanity Fair may have to get in line. Ms. Brown was on
vacation this week, but a Talk-Miramax Books spokesperson said the ex-editor
had also received inquires about writing such a column from Salon, Slate, The
New York Times Magazine and The New York Sun .
Adam Moss, editor of The Times Magazine , declined to comment, and
Seth Lipsky, editor of The Sun , did not return calls seeking comment.
Likewise, Salon editor in chief David Talbot and representatives from Slate did
not respond to e-mails from Off the Record.
No one ever said Bonnie Fuller was going to have an easy time righting the
ship at US Weekly , Jann Wenner’s entry into the hyper-competitive
supermarket magazine fray.
Ms. Fuller has been on the job for less than a month, and while Wenner
Media executives say they’re thrilled with her progress with the weekly
title-especially her results in newsstand sales-the staff Ms. Fuller inherited
at US Weekly is seriously cranky and badly in need of some shuteye.
Among the US Weekly staff grievances: Ms. Fuller only looks at
hard-copy page proofs and has a penchant for tearing up the book at the last
moment. That leads to their biggest complaint: that the magazine’s closing
times under Ms. Fuller have been brutal, stretching first into the wee hours of
the morning and then, in two subsequent issues, plain old morning .
There have already been some top staff departures since Ms. Fuller took
over. So far, two editors-managing editor Maura Fritz and assistant managing
editor Chad Anderson-have quit US Weekly . Mr. Anderson is moving to
Virginia to work at Richmond magazine, while Ms. Fritz quit without her
next job lined up. Ms. Fritz said that she quit because US Weekly is
“going in a direction that I’m not particularly comfortable with.” Mr. Anderson
had no comment.
p>>Ms. Fuller, the former editor of Glamour and Cosmopolitan, came
to US Weekly after the previous editor, Terry McDonell, left to go run Sports
Ms. Fuller has her defenders, too. Some at Wenner told Off the Record that
the disgruntled US staffers are merely loyalists to the regime of Mr.
McDonell and editor Charlie Leehrsen, who also left for Sports Illustrated after
he was passed over for the top job at US Weekly . According to these Wenner
sources, these critics are unwilling to give Ms. Fuller a chance.
But the gripers said their beefs with Ms. Fuller are not just the standard
old-staff moaning that happens whenever a new editor comes aboard.
“I don’t think people were so in love with the previous regime that any new
editor would have had a hard time,” said one. “Who cares who runs the magazine
as long as they run it well? I don’t care who likes who-it’s just about trying
to get your job done.”
These sources said the principal problem was that Ms. Fuller-a veteran of
monthlies-was still adjusting to the weekly deadlines at US Weekly . “She
doesn’t get the pace,” said one US Weekly staffer. “With a weekly, you
always have to move forward. And with any page, she’s likely to rip it up at the
But Ms. Fuller chalked up the difficulties to the typical growing pains of
any new editor taking over.
“Whenever there’s some change in routine and a new person in charge, some
of those things can take a little longer,” Ms. Fuller said. “Everybody’s got to
get used to some changes in their routine, but I don’t expect that’s going to
be a continual thing.”
But US Weekly ‘s late closings are getting on some nerves. Before Ms.
Fuller, the magazine would usually wrap up Mondays at midnight, but after a 3
a.m. close on March 11, US Weekly staffers set up an office pool on when
the issue would ship to the printer the next week. One staffer picked 7 a.m., a
guess which was roundly called “crazy” by other staffers.
They were all wrong. That US Weekly -which carried a cover line
“Britney & Justin: It’s Over”-went to the printers on March 18 at 7:45
a.m., sources said. No winner was awarded and the pool carried over to the
March 25 close, with entries stretching as late as 11 a.m.. This time, the staff
overbid: US Weekly closed its March 25 Oscars issue around 9 a.m.,
Ms. Fuller said she hopes that things will get better. “I don’t want to be
here all night,” she said on the evening of March 25. “I think we may have some
more late closes, but I don’t expect it to go on for a huge length of time. For
instance, we’re closing Oscars-and Oscars is always a late close, and
everyone’s prepared for that.”
Janice Min, a former editor at People and InStyle who was
recently hired by Ms. Fuller as her executive editor at US Weekly , said
that if there was confusion among staff, it wasn’t the new editor in chief’s
“With Bonnie, you leave her office after discussing a story with no
confusion about what she wants a story to be,” Ms. Min said in a phone call
from Uruguay, where she’s on vacation. “And that’s a real skill in a leader.”
Ms. Fuller said she has yet to complete her staff hiring. In addition to
Ms. Min, Ms. Fuller has brought in two editors on a temporary basis: Susan
Wyland, former managing editor of Real Simple , and Erick Levin.
“They’re pinch-hitting,” Ms. Fuller said. “There are a couple open
positions and I need to take some time to fill them, but I could use some extra
help in the meantime.”
Some of Ms. Fuller’s critics inside US Weekly acknowledged that the
new editor does possess a touch that the magazine needs. The true secret of
commercial success for US Weekly is keeping newsstand sales up, they said-and they pointed to Ms.
Fuller’s track record of writing catchy cover lines that appeal to US Weekly ‘s
audience, which is nearly two-thirds women.
” US Weekly was a magazine mostly for women, top-edited by men who
never liked the subject and who don’t really like women very much at this stage
of their lives,” said a staffer. “Bonnie Fuller gets it. She gets celebrities,
the fashion, the women’s audience that is already there. At least she watches
TV and thinks The Osbournes are cool.”
The disgruntled US Weekly staff will find little sympathy from
Wenner Media senior vice president Kent Brownridge, who said the company was
very pleased with Ms. Fuller, since her early issues have posted positive numbers. Mr. Brownridge said that
the first three issues under Ms. Fuller have averaged sales of 393,000 on the
newsstands. If she can keep the same pace, that would be a 21 percent increase
over the 325,000 single-copy sales average for the last six months of 2001.
“She’s doing exceedingly well, numbers-wise,” Mr. Brownridge said.
And if that means US Weekly ‘s staff is losing sleep, so be it, said
Mr. Brownridge .
“The old regime didn’t like to work on weekends and liked to go home early
on Monday night,” Mr. Brownridge said. “We’re going to get the latest, best,
juiciest bit of celebrity news in there, and if we have to stay up on Monday
night, so be it.”
Snyder with Sridhar Pappu
Fresh from the Oscar whirlwind, Variety /i>> editor in chief Peter Bart had a question: “How many hands can
you aspire to shake in 48 hours?”
That wasn’t our question, however. Off the Record called to ask Mr. Bart if
he was planning to retire.
In his 11 years as editor in chief of Hollywood’s paper of record, Mr.
Bart, 69, has become an undisputed if controversial power player, well known
for his hands-on approach to Variety . When angry people call Variety
reporters, a stock excuse is that Mr. Bart added the offending bit.
But during the 48-hour Hollywood cocktail party that is Oscars weekend, a
rumor spread that Mr. Bart was considering, and may in fact be planning, to
give up some of his control at Variety .
Three sources close to the principals told Off the Record that Tad Smith,
president of the media division at Cahners, the company that owns Variety ,
was recently talking to former staffer Martin Peers, now media reporter at The
Wall Street Journal , about moving back to Variety for a high-level
The job Mr. Smith had in mind, the sources said, was the No. 2 position at Variety .
Mr. Bart would retain the title of editor in chief-and thereby his place in
Hollywood royalty-but Mr. Peers, a former Variety New York bureau chief,
would be responsible for managing the paper on a day-to-day basis.
But the discussions fell apart when Mr. Peers turned down the job, sources
said. One source said that once Mr. Peers began talking to Mr. Bart, the latter
described the job not as top editor in Los Angeles, but as an executive
position in New York.
Whatever happened, none of the three principals would talk about it now,
except to say that everyone is happy where they are.
Mr. Peers said, “I’m not going back to Variety .” Mr. Smith confirmed
that he and Mr. Peers recently had breakfast but wouldn’t say what they
discussed. Of Mr. Bart, he said: “He’s doing a fantastic job. We’re not
recruiting for any particular job- and if we were, it would be Peter’s job to
Mr. Smith and Mr. Bart have had their issues. It was Mr. Smith who
suspended Mr. Bart last August, after Mr. Bart was quoted making derogatory
comments in a Los Angeles magazine profile.
Asked if he was nearing retirement, Mr. Bart said he was not. “I intend to
continue in my role as per usual,” he said.
Pete Hamill, meet the SPACE.man! According to sources at the Daily News ,
the tabloid is closing in on hiring Lou Dobbs, the host of CNN’s Moneyline
and the former face man of SPACE.com, to write a weekly financial-news column.
Negotiations between Mr. Dobbs and the News began with an overture from
the paper’s business editor, David Andelman, and a deal appears close, sources
said. On Tuesday, March 26, Mr. Dobbs, Mr. Andelman and news editor Ed Kosner
were seen having lunch at the Four Seasons.
editor Ed Kosner did not return a call seeking comment.
Mr. Andelman and a spokesperson for the News declined to comment. A
spokesperson for Mr. Dobbs at CNN said that “CNN did not dispute” that the two
sides were speaking, but declined to comment further.